Dear John ~ We Must Not Break

Dear John,

I know we’re not keeping score, and this free-flowing open-handiness, this total lack of keeping tally, is one of the signals of genuine friendship. Still, as your good and faithful words have landed in my digital mailbox three times now, I’ve been trying to write this letter to you. I just haven’t had the words. I’ve been scrambling to care for the congregation and complete a few projects and figure out Zoom (I’ve already learned to hate the word “Zoom”), and, with Miska, create some semblance of rhythm for our family — but mainly, I simply haven’t had the words.

The past couple weeks, it’s as if someone just flipped the whole Monopoly board. All the pieces are scattered. We don’t know which way is up. Everything is uncertain. I hear (and agree with) the call that we must not panic–we have to stick together, breathe deep, watch out for one another, trust the people who’ve trained their whole life for this moment, and trust The Mercy to hold us. And yet, the fear is real. We’re swimming through dark waters. It’s the voice of fools who say we have nothing to fear. Only, I believe that faith and hope and love are more powerful than fear—way more powerful.

We humans are quite a magnificent and resilient lot. There are plenty of reasons and times to point out the countless ways we’ve made a wreck of things. But right now, I’m drawn to the wonder of those police officers in Mallorca, Spain, making the rounds down barren avenues, folks locked in their houses — and pausing every few streets to get out of their patrol cars and serenade the block. I’m in awe of so many who are organizing grocery runs for their elderly neighbors, collecting toilet paper for those who don’t’ have any, and delivering food to school kids who’re missing their prime source of food. I marvel at the parents carving out a new reality, tending to their children and families with little guidance or sense of when this ends. And wow — isn’t it something to see folks committing the government checks they don’t really need to those who really do?

And then I’m stunned by the skill and courage of the researchers, burning all their energy and every ounce of their knowledge, to find an answer to this menace. I’m so grateful for doctors like my brother-in-law in Jonesboro, Arkansas, serving the vulnerable amid crisis–and then, exhausted, rushing back into the hospital to care for the tornado victims. I’m inspired by Dr. Craig Smith at Columbia University Medical Center in New York outlining their dire reality in a note to his colleagues. His sober description lands with an alarming jolt–but then he concluded with these spine-straightening words: “A forest of bamboo bends to the ground in a typhoon but rarely breaks. We are that forest and we must not break. By the people, for the people.”

That line is the one I want to hold up today. Each of us, in our own way and own place — with our own circle of people — We must not break. And by God’s mercy, we will not.

Your friend,


p.s. on top of it all, yesterday was the 1 year anniversary of our dog Daisy’s death. There were new tears in our house.

6 Replies to “Dear John ~ We Must Not Break”

  1. Winn, I love your word pictures. I am also amazed at all that is going on to help one another since our virus situation has arrived. I am ashamed God had to do this to make us behave like the good Christians we can be. Can you imagine if we lived like this all the time? “What a wonderful world this would be.” God knows it already! And sharing in your 1 year sorrow.

  2. What a great word of encouragement. I’m a pastor who has used more social media the past three week than is all previous years combined. And even though I’m home all the time, I’m tired, a reed bent low. So thanks for your wonderful words to bend but not break. Sorry about your Daisy.

  3. Thank-you for saying that fear , And yet, the fear is real.” for acknowedging this and eminding us that faith, hope and love are way more powerful!
    Wow ,love the allegory of the Bamboo tht bends!

  4. Masterful. Meaningful. Your words are always needed more than we sometimes know. God knows we need them and he has given you the ability to share in such a powerful way.

  5. Maybe the last Christmas I had with my mom, exchanging gifts of books as we always did, she tucked in a bookmark with a photo of one flower and the words,”Love is best.” Your words and all the responses that follow resound with this truth!

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